Human Life, Nihilism, and Other Funny Ideas

Being human. Not the clothing line launched by Salman Khan to atone for his sins, but rather the literal meaning of the word human. What does it mean, to be human? Are we just limited to our mortal selves, or are we more than that? Well, we stopped asking questions like these when we were around six years old, and replaced it with a far more important query.
“Bro, let’s roll?”

Human life is beautiful to witness. So careful about social acceptance, so careless about natural resources, so eager for the next season of Game of Thrones, but so afraid of the future. There are around 7.6 billion people on planet Earth now. That’s 7,600,000,000 people, breathing right along with you at this very moment. In a world where we grow up thinking “I am free to do anything I want”, this number challenges everything.
Isn’t it fascinating that this is something that’s at the back of our heads at all times, yet we just tend to ignore it? We’ll go around this by asking some of the simplest questions in the English language.


Homo sapiens
/həʊməʊ ˈsapɪɛnz,ˌhɒməʊ ˈsapɪɛnz/
the primate species to which modern humans belong; humans regarded as a species.


The dictionary has a very dull definition for this. From a biologically point of view, we are just another carbon based life form that is conscious for some reason. In a pool of 8.6 million species, we barely stand special. What separates us distinctly from other kinds of life is our gift of pattern recognition. We see and record data, along with rationally processing it, enabling us to manipulate the world as we see fit. This makes us nothing short of magicians. That, is what we are. But we don’t deserve the importance we give ourselves either.

When and Where:

“The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”- Carl Sagan


Earth is the only home we have ever known, the only planet to ‘intelligent’ life as we know it. We stand on this pale blue dot and diligently try to make do with whatever we have on hand. We do not have any habitable planets in the Solar System, and same is the story with the entire Milky Way galaxy which is 100,000 light years wide, and let’s not explore into the entire observable universe, which is beyond 93 billion light-years in diameter. So for now, Earth is where we make our stand.

In time, we as a species have just lived a tiny 200,000 years in comparison to the age of the universe, that being a whooping 13.7 billion years. We barely make it to a healthy eighty years of life expectancy, in retrospect we have seen nothing in this world. An eternity has passed before our existence and an eternity will pass again after our death. This leaves an average human with an infinitesimal amount of time to experience reality.


This is where Nihilism comes in. Nihilism takes all the numbers and data above and dumps it in a trash can with a smile on its face. Knowing that we know nothing is what Nihilism is. Jon Snow knew about Nihilism, hence he knew nothing. As a philosophical doctrine, it revolves around the idea that life has no meaning, purpose, or direction, and that every event in the universe is purely random. It gets harder to digest if we consider the grander scale of the cosmos, where entropy comes into picture, and the randomness of the universe keeps increasing.This approach to life is hard and cruel for many people, as it challenges the comfort zones of our everyday lives.

Optimistic Nihilism is digesting all of this and looking at the world from a better perspective. We are here to experience, to create, to sing and dance and live a complete life. There is no great meaning or purpose, but what we define. If there are no rules for this universe, we get to dictate the rules. This is what it’s all about, what best we can do with the available resources on hand. Together we can reach for the stars and much beyond. Perhaps the answer is 42, perhaps there is no answer. But the idea of experiencing life as it comes makes our time here easier. We are insignificant pieces on a grand puzzle, moving around along with everything else in the world. Everything makes sense at the end.

We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments, these moments when we dared to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known, we count these moments as our highest achievements, but we lost all that. And perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers, and we’ve barely begun, and that our greatest accomplishments can not be behind us, because our destiny lies above us. – Interstellar.

– Ashresh Marupaka, for MTTN.

– Cover Art by Spandita Das.


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